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Ranchers teach cow to eat weeds

Published on August 21, 2012 3:01AM

Last changed on September 18, 2012 11:10AM


Capital Press

With corn prices climbing, Kathy Voth, founder of Livestock for Landscapes, says the answer to many cattle ranchers' feed dilemmas is in their weed patch.

Voth, who lives in Colorado, will teach ranchers how to turn pesky vegetation into profitable cattle feed at her "Educated Cows Eat Weeds" workshop in Oregon City, Ore., July 24.

The targeted grazing program is based on research by Fred Provenza and his colleagues at Utah State University. They studied how animals choose their food. Voth, who spent 12 years with the Bureau of Land Management, worked with Provenza to apply his research and started her program in 2004.

Voth said that by using her 10-day program, ranchers can teach cattle to clear unwanted plants. She wants to help ranchers provide more feed and a balanced diet for cattle, while reducing pesticide use.

"This provides them forage that they wouldn't have had otherwise," Voth said, particularly in light of high feed prices and drought conditions. She'll focus on thistles and blackberries at the Oregon City workshop.

While some weeds, such as tansy and leafy sturge, are toxic to cattle, James Males, a professor of animal and rangeland sciences at Oregon State University, said ranchers who have these weeds already keep them cut back from cattle grazing areas.

Males said many broadleaf weeds are more nutritious than grass, and that their long roots help them survive cold or dry conditions that kill grass.

The workshop is sponsored by the Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District, in partnership with the USDA National Resources Conservation Service.

Cost is $50 per farm, which includes an individualized plan for each farm, Voth's book and DVD, "Teaching Cows to Eat Weeds," and lunch. Registration is limited. Marlene Lloyd of the Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District may be contacted at 503-210-6004 or mlloyd@conservationdistrict.org for more information.

The workshop will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Oregon City fire station conference room, at 624 Seventh St. Two individuals per farm may attend.

Lee Ko, a quality water specialist at the USDA NRCS said the workshop can provide ranchers with a new perspective on weeds.

"Canada thistle is a problem, and if we can get it to be a nutritious pasture plant, then that's a good thing," Ko said, adding that the creeping perennial is as nutritious as alfalfa.


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